Myanmar resources offer few riches

Myanmar’s resources make money for the generals, as locals miss out

The people of Ramree see little benefit from the rich resources beneath their feet

The island of Ramree lies off the undeveloped west coast of Myanmar. It is a place rich in natural beauty, but an even more valuable resource lies just off shore.

The area is the site of South-East Asia’s largest gas deposits, believed to be worth as much as $52bn.

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Myanmar’s military rulers have dubbed the deposit “Shwe gas”, or the golden gas.

But for those who live in the area, the golden gas has quickly lost its lustre.

Locals living on the nearby island of Maday say they have seen the land sold from underneath them to a Chinese gas development project.

A new pipeline will take Myanmar’s oil and gas
to fuel China’s booming economy

The government, looking to boost its foreign currency reserves, has told residents they will be relocated within two years without compensation.

While the gas goes abroad and profit goes to the military, locals live without electricity for all but two hours a day.

“When the government tells us to relocate from our villages, we will have to do it,” one local activist told Al Jazeera.

“Locals are passive and they don’t take any interest in what’s going on. Some educated people are interested but most of the people in our state are not educated, so they don’t discuss it. Even when the people do discuss it, they are scared.”

The gas will help power China’s development.

A 1,400-km pipeline will connect the village of Kyaukphu to the booming city of Kunming in southwest China.

Next to the gas, a second pipeline will carry oil to China.

The oil – from the Middle East and Africa – will arrive in Myanmar at a new deep water port on the island.

The few local residents drilling for oil could
be shut down at any time

Nobody from the town is allowed to visit the site of the new harbour, next to a nearby naval base.

In addition to the rich gas deposits, the region also has its own source of oil at a site known as Yenang Taung, or the oil mountain.

Tight security stopped us from filming there, but local activists managed to smuggle out some pictures.

Locals pay $1,200 for the right to drill for oil, but that does not mean they will be able to profit from any discovery.

One local activist told Al Jazeera the government could move in at any moment and arrest those who are extracting oil.

With its rich natural resources the region around Ramree island will soon be providing power and energy for millions of Chinese.

The revenue generated will help prop up Myanmar’s repressive military government.

But the ordinary residents here will see little benefit.

In this oil and gas-rich area, once the sun goes down and the region’s resources are piped across the border to China, the locals will once again be left in the dark.

Source: Al Jazeera


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